Parents carrying children hitched a ride, people shouted and showed their pride, well aware they were creating history. Grandparents who could hardly walk endured hours on their feet just to say that they had been there. Young people wondered that perhaps, finally, they would know what it was to live normally. Smiles filled Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia, between Diagonal and Gran Via, along with flags, chants, slogans and placards proclaiming from the rooftops that the Catalans were not afraid. It was 40 years ago today, and became the largest demonstration seen in Europe since the end of WWII. The newspapers reported 1.5 million people marched that day.
Above all, the day is remembered as a festive affair. “People were euphoric because the process of change had begun,” recalls the then 22 year-old student Pere Ysàs, who also admits that some were nervous about demonstrating for the first time in their lives.
“End the oppression, we are a nation… A sovereign Catalonia, Catalan Republic…. We demand a Statute” are just some of the slogans that day, and the banner at the head of the march, one of consensus, “We’ll fight, we will suffer, we will win.”
For some the political aspect of the march was less important, what counted was simply being there. There was also violence from some quaters, as Andreu Mayayo, Professor of History at the UB notes , despite the festive feeling, “the fear persisted that everything could end up going wrong.”
Perhaps the most relevant issue was the impression made on an international level and the interest in knowing what would happen next.